tv Tavis Smiley PBS August 7, 2010 12:00am-12:30am PDT
from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. first tonight, our conversation with best-selling author david shenk on his new book "the genius in all of us." he concludes each one of us can become a gifted and our own unique way. also tonight, singer-songwriter jakob dylan is here. he is about to release his second solo project called "women and country,"you.
why does everything wrong? >> it is crazy, scientists are in the 21st century world of understanding all the nuances of genetics and how to translate into abilities, and the general public is stuck in an early 20th-century understanding of genes as being blueprints with specific information about what are traits are supposed to look like. in fact, genes interact with the environment. it is not they don't have influence. of course they do, but the actual traits that end up becoming who we are our product of this constant interaction that starts from the very first moment we are conceived. obviously, we can impact that. tavis: that means i am not any more doomed to a life of mediocrity that i am guaranteed to be a genius?
>> exactly right. my message is not that we can control the stuff absolutely or there is any formula, but we are learning more about this. it understands this new understanding of genes, and this whole other body of science which is talking about how people get expertise studies. we're learning more about the intricacies of the moment to moment process where we develop the attitudes and practices which give us the skill to be good. tavis: we see people all this time -- all the time who we say are geniuses. how'd we acquire that? if you want a recipe? -- >> you want the recipe? one of the big themes, first, you have to keep the faith. you have to have faith that even though you, and any particular moment, are only so good at
something, and your ambition might be to be so great and so far off you cannot see the distance, that it is about this process. it is showing people how there is a science to the process and explaining how people get really good stuff, do it through this process, so people have the faith early on. if you don't have the faith, it is not one to happen. you think of yourself as being mediocre. tavis: is it practice? >> it starts with the idea that you can actually get there. parents have been doing this for generations. some parents say you could be anything. the science bears that out. the second thing, it is about learning to have an interaction and appreciation for failure. you can get great with stuff, you cannot get great at something unless you, on
purpose, push yourself to the edge of your ability, a little beyond, look at what did not go quite right, and the next day master the next step and push yourself further. there is a whole group of people who experience failure as this message that you are only going to go so good at something, revealing something about year and eight limit. there is another crop of people who are experiencing failure as this insight into what they have not learned to do yet. it is the second group of people, we need to bring that message to as many people as possible to build the talent and skills. tavis: i wonder whether or not part of what holds people back from even being greater at what they are, greater than they think they are asked to do with being told they are a genius at something. over again, my god -- i have
never been told this -- you are the best talk-show host in television, i love you the best. if i internalize i am the best, and i never worked at trying to become a better talk show host, don't i start my growth? -- don't i stuck my growth? >> there is considerable science to support that. a stanford scientist took a group of students and said to one group, the reason you did well at this relatively easy task if you are smart. you have this certain something. she took another group and said, the reason you did well if you worked hard, it is all about building skills. then she offered each a new test. you want to take an easy test or something harder? the group that was told they were smart were not nearly as ambitious and not do as well. the group that was told it is all about work and effort and accumulating skills are more
ambitious. they understand that it is malleable. intelligence and talent and all of these abilities are malleable and there are certain skills you are building that is empowering. tavis: tell me more about how our environment shapes that? >> there is a culture that speaks to this. part of a, -- part of it, not to change the conversation, is not using words like in eight and gifted in the sense that you have this gift from somewhere -- using words like innate and gifted in the sense that you have this gift from somewhere. i am not saying that there are things not out of your control, but we're learning more and more about how to tap into the psychology of this, build skills in all these areas. it is no accident that runners, swimmers, chess players, and the skill that you can imagine in
the 21st century, we are all better than one-half years ago, 200 years ago, -- better than 100 years ago, to add years ago, so we're transmitting this knowledge. tavis: you actually give tips on how to advance the genius process. one of the items is practice. you also talk about the fact that it is about how you speak to your child, how you speak to the person's a new universe. did not surprise me, i have lived this, it is fascinating to read the science there are kids in certain environments to end up having their a genius stunted, in part because they did not hear a certain amount of words in their universe. >> that is right. tavis: the words they here are
sophomoric and basic. it is fascinating research. and >> all of this development begins early on. you are talking about a study that shows the amount of words spoken in a family environment at beverly -- at the very earliest ages, there is a huge difference in the complexity of words and the ratio of encouraging to discouraging words. the difference is millions of words just in those first couple years. yes, and highly verbal society and family, reading all of these things, the science is bearing this out that makes a difference. tavis: when you encourage talent, it grows. when you encourage genius, ed flowers. >> and making sure people have this mind set that is a series of skills, failure is part of
the process, and no one can say what level anyone will hit. of course they'll have disappointments. it is part of the process. it is all about thinking about this accumulation of skills. tavis: there are still people in this society, there reese summers from harvard, making comments perceive to date -- larry summers from harvard, making comments perceive to be negative, this notion that genius has to do with gender and not much to do with race. your thoughts about genius and the intersection of race and gender? >> i will take the race, because gender is tricky and i do not want to be misinterpreted. there are genetic differences between men and women and the development is different. i want to say about race that we have this book, "the bell curve," and they had the
statistical studies that supposedly divide out genetic influence from environmental influence and a miss read that to show -- and a misread that. if you extrapolate from that and look at the population not doing well, you look at continents not doing well, okay, those guys have inferior genes that only allows them to go so far, now that we know it is the interaction between the jeans and the environment and you cannot really separate them out, even though statistics can, biology will let you do that, we get past this idea there are certain ethnicities or populations that are genetically doomed to mediocrity. tavis: this kind of stuff turns me on, the human genome, genius, all this science it fascinates me. the new book from david shenk is called "the genius in all of us
." my floor director is so happy there is hope for him. david, could have you on the program. >> thank you. tavis: up next, singer- songwriter jakob dylan. stay with us. pleased to welcome jakob dylan to this program. the talented singer-songwriter is about to release his second solo cd called "women and country," produced by t-bone burnett. here is a small portion. >> ♪ no more shame nothing to lose nothing but the whole wide world to do nothing but the whole wide world
to do nothing but the whole wide world wide world ♪ tavis: good to have you on this program. i could take this title 18 different ways. how do you want me to take it? >> it should be open to interpretation. two metaphors for all of the things that we defend an honor and bring out greatness in all of us. tavis: over the years, if i read your musical journey correctly, you have gone through a process of getting to this signature sound that you have now, starting with your early rock stuff. tell us about that journey. >> i have been and rock bands since i was a teenager. but the sounds on this record, the instrumentation and the stories, i think i get that in
the context of rock-and-roll bands. i think if you listen to the wallflowers' early material, this would not be a stretch to think this would be part of that. 20 years ago we were using similar instruments. tavis: how does your sound take shape, change, that amorphous size and you go from a band to a solo artist, -- metamorphic size -- change when you go from a band to a solo artist? >> you always do it this way. i still like being in a band. there are different opportunities and, hopefully, if you have a good band, a character that you could rely on. it is a team.
idoing it this way is a differet kind of team. working with t-bone, it is a different kind of team. it is different, but i still find great purpose for both. tavis: for every artist to has done both solo and the band, each goes through his are our current process -- his or her own process for deciding when and how, whether it is lionel richie or michael jackson. tell me about your process deciding the time was right? >> i always wanted to do lots of things. i never thought i would be in the wallflowers my entire career. i started with them when i was 18, 19 years old. i wanted to do something different. it was not really a reaction to anything as much as i had done that all lot. maybe going back to the same sound and doing the same thing, i just wanted to do something
different. tavis: the first question, glen campbell, and i will let you tell the story, we have glen campbell to thank for this cd? >> yes, if we like the cd, let's thanked glenn campbell. -- let's thank glen campbell. otherwise, he would probably like to be left out. he made a record eight years ago, a friend of mine, a record producer, the collected songs from younger artists and songwriters and put them into context. it was a big success. people liked it a lot. this time we wanted to have regional songs written. i had been touring. i was very busy at the time. but i wanted to do that because i was a big fan of glen campbell and the project sounded great. i just wrote nothing but the whole wide world with him in mind.
i kind of understood the stage of the career and i kind of had an idea of what he would like to sing, thematically, where he is now. i just can't put myself in that mind frame. i had seen t-bone, just visit with him, played him the song, and he was enthusiastic about it. i like where i began. i like writing from that one song. i just used it as a jumping off point to write a bunch more. tavis: how do you do that? you write the song for glenn campbell, you play it for t- bone, t-bone likes the song and says, do more stuff like this, do a whole record. you leave the studio, i am just blown away by the song writing process. you leave, six weeks later you come back with a bunch more songs in that genre. how does that work?
tavis: you have the cd caught -- >> you have the cd? i don't have mine yet. there are many different ways to write songs. i don't see any one way to do it. i just kind of wait. t-bone, he is very busy. there was not a lot of time. he first told me when he had time available, only about five weeks away after we initially got together. i thought there was no way i would have to write songs in five weeks. that home, said it is only songs, and five weeks is enough time to get the songs. tavis: does the song writing process work better for you when you are under some kind of constraints, or better when you have the time to just eight and flow? >> -- to gestate and flowe?
>> it is probably a little of both. if he told me a year, i would probably take better. i work better with a deadline and schedule in knowing i have a record time and opportunity to play. if it was up to myself, i don't work as hard and it is not the same. tavis: we have mentioned t-bone burnett. for those who did not know the name or trying to figure out why you know the name, it is because you saw t-bone when the academy award for best song from "crazy heart," the jeff bridges film -- so glad that jeff bridges pull that off. what is it like working with t- bone burnett? >> i have a lot of shorthand with him. i have known him a long time. we first went on to war in 1975, because he was -- we first went
on to war in 1975, because he was touring as a member of my dad's group. i worked with him in 1995 with, and we have always stayed close. -- i worked with him in 1995 with the wallflowers, and we have always stayed close, looking for the right time. tavis: i want to go back to your songwriting process, because i know as you get older, there are more comparisons made. it is impossible for people to not raise the name of the father you just reference a moment ago, although not by name. this is bob dylan's boy, jakob dylan. i want to phrase this differently. compare and contrast for me what it was like when you were first getting started, with all of these bob dylan questions, to your comfort or discomfort, you
tell me, at age of 40 with the bob dylan comparisons? can you compare it then and now? >> it is a good comparison that any singer-songwriter would not mind. it was different starting out younger. i was not that comfortable, only because there was not a lot of material to talk about. when i was starting out, a lot of people were aware of the back story was going to take precedent. i was always aware of that and i never had great issue with it. i never felt it was anything to prove. i never suggested, i think ever, that people look at me and my own context. you cannot really -- he did not think of a tight rope walker and think of the circus. you cannot think of cattle and not think of farmland. i know it is nearly impossible to think of me without the backdrop behind it. for the most part, it has never
been that big an issue. i always knew if not matter. to some degree, i would have liked to have been a doctor may be, or a school teacher. it would've said the same things down the hallway, wondered why i got the job. i'd just rather go right into the fire. tavis: any regrets having jumped into this fire? >> no, i was just drawn to it. i have not spent much time thinking should buy it or should i have not? a lot of people do that naturally when they do something a long time, that has never really deter me from doing that. i mean, literally, it has not been that big. i am not up at night worrying about it too much. tavis: now that you have some distance and, quite frankly,
some work in the rearview mirror, things in the course of your career, i assume you have always thought your dad was pretty cool, but now that you have that distance and written a bunch of songs herself, what do you think now of your dad? everybody else thinks he is the greatest ever, and i suspect you may think the same, but assess his lyrical work, songwriting, now that you understand the activity? >> i always understood the same thing everybody else understood, that is the high water mark for everybody. the exciting thing for everybody, year after year, his records were always as good as his previous records. year after year, you hope that you continue to find ways to write something different. something that resonates with people. i think there was a time when people did not know what would become of artists as they got a
little more advanced, but it was a good lesson for everybody that you could just keep getting better. tavis: you would describe this record for fans how? >> a think something special happened. i'm really glad to have been a part of it, and i say that because t-bone has a real special way of creating an atmosphere that is unique. it does not happen very often. it was a pleasure to make. i was aware by the second day that i was part of something, a group of people, and i felt magic in the room. just by the chemistry that was going on. it is unique and it is not always happen that way. i noticed it right away, and six days later i could still feel it. tavis: not that you need a reason to pick up his new project, but the fact to work with t-bone burnett is another
good reason to pick up jakob dylan's new project, "women and country." >> thank you very much. tavis: my honor. that is our show for tonight. i will see you next time here on pbs. until then, thank you for watching, a good night from l.a., and keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley on pbs.org. today's show, visit tavis smiley on pbs.org.